Matt McCarthy, middle, stood out for USF on Thursday, when the Dons lost to Brigham Young University at home. (Courtesy Gerome Wright/USF Athletics)

Matt McCarthy, middle, stood out for USF on Thursday, when the Dons lost to Brigham Young University at home. (Courtesy Gerome Wright/USF Athletics)

USF can’t complete comeback against bigger BYU team, seek first signature win in conference

WAR MEMORIAL GYM — Forgive the University of San Francisco men’s basketball team for having its ups and downs. It’s still learning how to win. With three freshman and a sophomore in the starting lineup, it’s understandable that the Dons are going to experience lulls.

What they do have is fight. But it’s consistency they’re looking for.

With the more experienced Brigham Young in The City, USF fought back from an early 13-point deficit to make the game competitive, but the Cougars had Yoeli Childs and that’s all that mattered down the stretch as BYU pulled away for a 69-59 victory.

Second-year head coach Kyle Smith wasn’t interested in blaming youth for the team’s downturn at the end of the contest.

“We don’t like to talk in those terms. That’s an easy out for a coaching staff or team,” he said. “We just have some guys who are inexperienced.”

One of them is Souley Boum, a freshman out of Oakland Tech who has had to shoulder the scoring load (averaging 15.6 points per game entering the contest) with preseason all-Conference guard Charles Minlend out for the season. Boum struggled to find his shot against BYU, netting seven points on as many shots.

“It was a big game, [Boum needs to know] they’re going to scout you hard,” Smith said.

Matt McCarthy, a junior and the lone upperclassman in the Dons’ starting five, did all he could to keep his side in the game.

The Australian forward finished with 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting and was effective in the paint, scoring on an array of jump hooks. But McCarthy has yet to beat BYU, a fact that stung afterward.

“It doesn’t really matter if you play well in the first half, you’ve got to stop [Childs] at the end,” McCarthy said of the Cougars big man who score nine points, grabbed a pair of boards and blocked a shot in the final 10 minutes of the game.

What stuck with Smith was USF getting outrebounded at home, 31-25. He was happy with the solid stretch in the second half, when the Dons claimed their first lead of the game with just less than nine minutes to play.

That lead eventually evaporated and San Francisco was left seeking its first signature West Coast Conference win of the season.

The Dons were downtrodden after the defeat, which could be attributed to the somewhat close loss to a conference rival, the flu bug hitting the team or from a certain event that shook the Bay Area early Thursday morning.

“Didn’t sleep much after the earthquake,” Smith said. “But, BYU had a lot to do with that.”

jpalmer@sfexaminer.comCollege Sports

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